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Friday, August 17, 2007

Everything's Coming Up Peaches: Fresh Peach and Blueberry Mascarpone Crumble

My birthday falls on a Monday this year so my hubby in his ultimate wisdom decided we should begin celebrating Friday night & keep the festive atmosphere going until Monday night.
I had planned for us to patronize a few of my favorite restaurants for my birthday weekend extravaganza: Quince, La Folie, Hime culminating with Michael Mina on Monday, the big night, where I would wallow in luxurious food, artistically presented & cooked to perfection.
But nature will have it's little jokes, and I found myself still unable to walk without looking like some less than well-preserved octogenarian because of this damned knee injury that I suffered 6 weeks ago which absolutely refuses to get better. Since most of these places are swank eateries swarming with San Francisco's finest who while not always breathtakingly glamorous like the Manhattan & L.A. crowds tend to be, still do manage to emit a certain kind of je ne se quoi, the last thing I wanted to do was present myself to this society looking like a cross between Quasimodo and one of Jerry Lewis' less dignified movie characters. Believe me, nothing dulls the appetite more than a clumsy, bloated middle-aged female made more clumsy & more bloated with lots of rich food & wine.
So being the good philanthropist, I canceled all our plans and decided to rethink the weekend. I first decided that Monday night would still be filled with luxurious foods, after all it was still my birthday! The menu would consist of '85 Krug champagne, 8 oz. of ossetra caviar from the Caspian Sea, pate of duck foie gras locally made, Gioia burrata from L.A., heirloom tomatoes from the central valley and great bread from both the east bay & Sonoma, an Acme sweet baguette & a sourdough boule that a good friend of ours generously introduced us to. What more could I girl want?
I then decided we would start the weekend with a breakfast of the late summer's yummiest offerings along with the staples that I happened to have in the pantry which my loving hubby restocked them for me while I recuperate. I made it late Friday night after imbibing way too much 2000 Chevalier-Montrachet & 1997 Barbaresco (thank you, Domaine Leflaive & Gaja) and watching Woody Allen's Sleeper (looking at those Buick-sized frankenfruits in the scene where Woody goes foraging for food may have inspired this dish) which shows you just how fool-proof this recipe is: "So easy a drunken Latina can do it." Now there's a catchy tag-line...

Fresh Peach and Blueberry
Mascarpone Crumble

You can substitute cream cheese for the mascarpone. If you do, combine 8 oz. of the cream cheese with 8 oz. of creme fraiche or with 8oz of Greek-style yogurt. Cream cheese alone would make this dish much too heavy in texture not as custardy as desirable.
I used delicious large white peaches which have a more delicately perfume-like aroma and flavor. You can easily use any kind of stone fruit (apricots, nectarines, etc.) just make sure you have about 6 cups worth. As for the berries, you can use blackberries or raspberries even strawberries though strawberries alone won't give you the lovely consistency that you get from the other berries; best to eat them au natural.


For the fruit:
5 or 6 large peaches, each pitted & sliced into 12 sections
1-1/2 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed & dried
2 Tablespoons of cornstarch
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup of superfine granulated sugar

For the custard:
2 8oz. containers of mascarpone, room temperature
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten

For the crumble:
1 cup of chopped walnuts or almonds, unsalted
1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) of unsalted, well-chilled butter, cut into 1/2 dice


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray the bottom of a large 9"x12" baking dish
coating liberally then line the bottom with parchment paper cut to fit the dish (unless you are using Le Creuset or Emile Henry enamel coated clay baking dishes as they are the best to use & let you skip the buttering prep ). Butter or spray top of parchment & set aside.

Using a large bowl combine the peaches & blueberries. Sprinkle with lemon juice, sugar & cornstarch. Stir to combine well until the dry ingredients have completely dissolved into the fruit. Pour the fruit & its juices into the prepared baking dish.

In the bowl of a large food processor ( or just a large bowl if beating by hand), add the softened mascarpone with the sugar & pulse or whisk until it appears a little lighter & fluffier in texture, then add the half & half slowly to the bowl and process as you slowly combine it. Stop when well combined and large lumps have dissolved. Add vanilla, incorporating well. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg with the salt and add it to the cheese mixture, processing until the custard looks smooth and homogeneous. Pour cheese custard over the fruit in the baking dish.

Using another large bowl, mix together the flour & salt. Add the brown sugar, mixing well to break up any large clumps of sugar. Add the chopped nuts, combing with the other ingredients and distributing them evenly. Finally add the cold butter cubes, first coating them well with the mixture, then using your fingers or a pastry cutter to crumble them into the mixture, combining with the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like very coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the baking dish, gently patting any loose mixture into place. There may be some crumble mixture left over.

Place crumble in the preheated oven and bake 35 to 45 minutes, until fruit is bubbly & top is browned and fragrant. If crumble hasn't browned as much as you like turn on broiler and place dish under broiler for 3-5 minutes to finish. Be sure to keep the dish several inches away from the flame. Remove from oven & let cool on a wire rack (about an hour).
You can enjoy the crumble when warm but the cheese custard tastes best when refrigerated for a few hours.
This dish can be fully assembled & baked a day ahead as long as you refrigerate it until an hour before you'd like to serve it.

This dish serves 8 people with or without a hangover.

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